SUPERNATURAL ASSAULTS AMONG CAMBODIAN REFUGEES WITH PTSD: NIGHTMARES, SLEEP PARALYSIS, HALLUCINATIONS, AND MIGRAINE-LIKE AURAS

Friday, November 18

5:15 PM – 5:30 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

Presenting Author: Devon Hinton Harvard Medical School

Cultural frames influence radically the experiencing of such disorders as trauma, panic disorder, and schizophrenia. In this talk, I will show how cultural frames shape the Khmer experiencing of trauma, leading to a great emphasis on supernatural visitation. I will show how the symptoms generated by trauma (nightmares, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and migraine-like auras) are interpreted by Cambodians as spiritual assault and visitation, leading to a trauma ontology in which these are key aspects of distress and meaning. This is the lived phenomenology of trauma. As recently reviewed by Cassaniti and Luhrmann, cultural frames can have a profound effect on the experiencing of distress and may lead to ontologies in which “supernatural experiencings” are more salient; they refer to this process as the “kindling of supernatural experiencing.” In this paper I will try to demonstrate how supernatural experiencing occurs among Cambodian refugees from the interaction of the biology of trauma, cultural frames, and looping processes, what we call a “Bio-Cultural Model of the Interaction Between Supernatural Experiencing and PTSD.” It is model that takes into consideration biology, symptom hypervigilance, symptom meaning, symptom amplification, catastrophic cognitions, cultural frames, and looping. In sum, it tries to explain “kindling” in terms of multiple types of processes that result in supernatural assault and visitation being common among traumatized Cambodian refugees.

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